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Reconsidering Tolerance: Insights From Political Theory and Three Experiments

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2019

Calvert W. Jones*
Affiliation:
Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park, USA
Teresa M. Bejan
Affiliation:
Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
*
*Corresponding author. Emails: cwjones@umd.edu; calvert.jones@gmail.com

Abstract

Tolerance underlies many contemporary controversies, yet theorists and political scientists study it in strikingly different ways. This article bridges the gap by using recent developments in political theory to enrich empirical research and extend the study of tolerance to contexts beyond liberal democracies, such as authoritarian regimes. Our recommendations challenge dominant liberal-democratic frameworks by emphasizing variation across the (1) objects of tolerance; (2) possible responses to difference; and (3) sources of tolerance. We then illustrate the promise of our recommendations with three theoretically informed experiments inspired by historical debates about religious conversion. Our results suggest a marked ‘convert effect’ across not only contemporary religious but also secular political divides, with the same difference in terms of content viewed as less tolerable when resulting from conversion than when given or ascribed. The research demonstrates the benefits of greater dialogue across political theory and political science, while shedding light on a central question of tolerance today.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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